Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Subtitled "A New-England Folktale", I found the most unsettling and effective aspect of The Witch (or The VVitch as it is stylized on its poster) was in its puritanical atmosphere and stark locales, as well as in the remarkable performance of young Anya Taylor-Joy. Having visited the New England area in 2014 and soaking in its landscapes, old cemeteries and early settler ambience no doubt helped when it came to The Witch giving me the hebee-gebees. No game changer but a movie filled with some immensely strong images and the odd moment of real horror, along with a couple of genuine scares.


Really enjoyed re-watching 52 Pick-Up last night, John Frankenheimer's 1986 adaptation of Elmore Leonard's 1974 novel of the same name. A story of betrayal, blackmail and murder in 80s L.A., the film is certainly one of the classier productions to come from the infamous Cannon Films Group, and features another standout performance from Roy Schieder, and great supporting turns from John Glover and Clarence Williams III as the main bad guys. Ann Margaret doesn't get a whole lot t...o do with her role but still adds a touch of class to the film, and the late Prince protege Vanity shows up as a stripper/nude model. A party scene also features a lot of famous adult film stars from the day, including Tom Byron, Amber Lynn, Sharon Mitchell, Herschell Savage, Jamie Gillis and others. Let down only by a rather over-the-top climax, Leonard co-wrote the screenplay, and the film does a good job at capturing the seedy 80s LA underbelly, though not as well as William Friedkin's masterful To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)


The Anastasia Killer is a pretty enjoyable 2014 thriller novel written by filmmaker Richard W. Haines (Splatter University, Class of Nuke 'em High, What Really Frightens You, and editor of the classic The Toxic Avenger). Featuring a beautiful Russian femme fatale running loose in New York and seeking revenge on those who wronged her parents, the book is briskly paced and very cinematic in its execution, featuring elements of the slasher genre as well as references to the world of adult f...ilmmakng (there's a veiled reference to the Traci Lords' underaged porn scandal, and one chapter takes place inside an adult film producer's office that is drapped with one-sheets from made-up XXX titles like Eat on the Go and Blow Me Down). Haines' technical knowledge of the filmmaking process certainly shows through in some of the novel's narrative (one of the cahracters is a director of a Law & Order-style cop show), but it thankfully doesn't bog down or halt the flow of the story. Featuring a nice piece of cover art by Kieron Edwards (which reminds me of some of the classic Italian giallo paperbacks of the 1960s and 70s), The Anastasia Killer provides the perfect pulp entertainment to pass the travel to and from work for the week.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Last night's Late Late Show was this double-bill of classic early Cronenberg, which I watched on the new local blu-ray set released by Madman last week. Was great to revisit both films for the first time after at least a dozen or so years. Both Shivers (1974) and Rabid (1977) remain so vital and effective and the central themes in the films remain as intriguing as they are disturbing and often repulsive, because they deal with the human condition and fears that are still very real today. And both films still pack a heavy punch at the end.
The films are also incredibly well-crafted and composed, especially considering the small budgets the Canadian filmmaker had to work with at the time, and Cronenberg always fills his films with lots of interesting, if often unknown, faces. Casting porn star Marilyn Chambers as the female lead in Rabid was certainly a risky creative decision, though a smart move from a marketing/commercial perspective, but she acquits herself quite well, coming off as not only sexual and terrifying but also effectively sympathetic at times.
While the films themselves are as powerful as ever, the transfers on Madman's blu-ray set are rather grainy at times (a complaint I have also heard about overseas blu-ray releases of the same films). Ironically, clips from both films that appear on the documentary featurettes seem to be of higher quality than the film themselves. I haven't watched the third film on this set (Cronenber's 1983 adpatation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone) as yet.